One of the things that I really want to do in life is to start my own business. It doesn't mean that I came from an entrepreneurial family -- my father worked for other people throughout most of his life, and it was only at the very last years of his life that he opened up a small food stall selling Indonesian traditional snacks. On the contrary, my wife came from a more entrepreneurial background -- her father owns a small grocery shop in his hometown.
Although some people might argue that entrepreneurial spirit is not passed down genetically, I still believe that growing up in an environment that encourages entrepreneurship can help cultivate that spirit. Working at a local university that believes entrepreneurship can change the world, I really want my kids to become entrepreneurs. One of the key aspects of becoming an entrepreneur is the ability to sell just about anything. Today, I would like to share an iPad app that I believe could become the perfect tool for your juniors to practice this skill.
Toca Store is an interactive app that allows you and one other person play the roles of storekeeper (seller) and customer (buyer) in a junior-friendly grocery shop setting. You start the app by becoming the storekeeper, selecting the items that you're about to sell from a pre-built catalog. Once you have selected five items, your store is ready to serve customers.
Then, you would invite someone else, e.g. your friend or a family member, to play as the customer. The customer would pick an item that she would like to buy, and put it in the cashier's tray. As the storekeeper, you would set the price for that item, enter it into the cash register, and wait for the customer to pay the amount.
The customer would then open up her small blue purse to see if she has enough coins to pay for the item. She would drag one coin at a time from inside her purse to the cash register. Upon completing the payment, the register closes and a small receipt gets printed.
As the customer, you would see a green basket icon popping up indicating that you should put the item you've just purchased into the basket. This completes a transaction, but not the entire session. You continue playing until the customer runs out of money and the receipt is taken out from the register for you to verify.
All of these steps occur in a single iPad screen, with players on either sides of the device, facing each other.
What your juniors can learn
First, your juniors can learn how to role-play, take turns, and initiate conversation with their playing partners. I believe that role-playing is one of the best ways to teach anyone about a new concept, and it also encourages your juniors to use and expand their imagination. As a parent, you can observe how your juniors might prefer one role over the other and initiate a discussion with them on their reasonings.
Second, your juniors can learn the concept of money, wallet, and counting. Toca Store simplifies the frictions in our daily transactions by removing the needs for currencies and denominations. The app chooses to use the simplest form of money, i.e. single denomination of a coin. An item that costs 5 would ask you to pay in 5 coins. The fact that it involves very simple counting to complete a transaction really helped my 3-year old, Philip, to be proficient in playing any of the roles.
Finally, your juniors can practice their entrepreneurial and social skills. Each transaction encourages you to promote your items, set and negotiate their prices and provide the best shopping experience for your customers. As a parent, you can teach your juniors to greet their customers, help pack items, and to always be polite while negotiating.
What I love about the app
As what you would expect from Toca Boca, Toca Store has great illustrations, themed background music and simple gameplay. Positioning the app as a toy instead of a game, the developers consciously designed the app for free play. There are no rules in the game, and the app forgives the player's mistakes. I love the way Toca Store handles cases where the customer does not have enough money; instead of cancelling the transaction, the app simply displays magical puffs around the blue purse and makes it reappear with the exact number of coins needed to complete the transaction.
Another thing that I love is the way the app displays receipts; instead of using text that would make it harder for your juniors to verify their purchases, it shows a list of icons. These simplicity can also be seen in the catalog design, where the designers prefer to use distinguishable icons without any accompanying text.
As you would expect, a shop must have items. The catalog has 34 objects to choose from, starting from flashlight, tomato ketchup, chocolate bar, sausages and soap bubbles to Toca Boca t-shirt and Toca Robot toys. The variety of choices contributes to the replayability of this app.
Finally, I love the way Toca Store has brought Philip and his grandpa to play together. Philip loves to play as the storekeeper and always asks his grandpa to guide Noah, my younger son, to become the customer. I find it funny how Philip always remembers the number of coins left in his grandpa's purse, and uses that information to charge as much as possible for whatever item his grandpa would pick next. Each time we complain about how high the price is, he would always argue that his grandpa has enough money to pay for the item.
I'm grateful to have found Toca Store. It has allowed me to simulate many real-life scenarios easily through its Store playset. The wide range of items in the catalog makes it easy for me to have a variety of discussion topics with Philip regardless of the roles he chooses to play. Toca Store also allows me to introduce many entrepreneurial concepts; not only limited to money, selling, negotiation and resource management, but also how your pricing strategy and the way you treat your customers would lead to your reputation (and eventually your success).
I really love Toca Store, and will bring it up in our family whenever I can. It's one of the things that my in-laws are familiar with and can relate with their own life experiences. I hope they can also teach a thing or two to my sons using this app. Highly recommended!
Get Toca Store on the App Store.